Saturday, October 8, 2016

Overcoming fear

Fear is a huge issue in our world today. Everywhere we turn there is something we either see or hear that has the potential to scare us if we let it. So how do we stop fear ruling our lives and move forwards?

For regular readers of this blog, most of you will know that I have one approach towards combating fear that I use regularly - which is the process of examination, dissecting the emotions and learning to understand the root cause of where they came from. Though this mentality has served me exceptionally well over the years (and has doubtless caused me from getting myself involved in some very unpleasant circumstances) - I have recently come to realize that there is sometimes another way to go about beating fear.

There's an age old saying I've heard many times throughout my life which states that in order to overcome fear we must "feel the fear and do it anyway". Over the years I have been skeptical and often critical of this statement as when used incorrectly I believe it can be at best noneffective and at worst, deeply damaging and traumatizing. To put it simply there is nothing worse than putting a person in a situation and trying to force them to face something they are simply not ready to face. However over the last two years I have been placed in a few different circumstances where I have been forced to "feel the fear and do it anyway" and I have found the results incredibly freeing and liberating.

The first situation happened to me about 2 years ago. I was working as an intern at a church at another city. This church was poorly run and took on a building project that it was woefully short staffed to adequately manage - so a huge amount of pressure and responsibility fell upon me as an intern. The pressure of the long days and hours (I often found myself working 16 hour days just to try and get the building ready on time) plus other negative factors in the environment such as the constant back stabbing and belittling of fellow church members and leadership from the head pastor began to take their toll on me. The church began an outreach to the homeless people in the city and after one especially chaotic Sunday morning service I was instructed that the senior pastor would be away the following week and that I was to call the police if any shenanigans unfolded.

The following Sunday can only be described as the worst church experience I have ever had in my life. The service was literally taken over by homeless people who were abusive and rude to fellow attendees (I was told to "burn in hell" by someone simply because I was trying to police the food rationing as I was instructed to do) and finally all hell broke loose when one of these people began physically fighting with several others at the venue - including females. I called the police as instructed who very promptly arrived - only to be sent away by the assistant pastor who was managing the church on that day on the basis that "we are working with these guys and have seen amazing change in them" (which was blatantly not true as far as I was concerned - because if there had been amazing change in them we wouldn't be seeing this happen).

I was then taken aside and told that I had been in the wrong for trying to police the food rationing which was "hurting" people and that I was "acting in fear by calling the police" which was once again what I was told to do. At this point I had simply had enough and absolutely exploded at the second in charge pastor. After storming out of the venue I received a phone call from the senior pastor saying that he was "not impressed with my actions" and that a meeting would be held about my actions. I went into this meeting a few days later and was once again told how wrong I was - but something had changed in me after losing my temper at the church. I stuck to my guns and told these people that they were in the wrong and that what was happening was dangerous and that someone had to say or do something otherwise people were going to get seriously hurt. I was ignored and shortly afterwards I decided to leave the church for good - and two years later after more chaotic services, the church closed its doors for good.

I need to explain something of my past and my default nature at this point. I had always been a deeply timid, shy and fearful person with a powerful dread for authority figures and discipline. There was nothing I feared more than standing up to someone in authority and power as I dreaded what they could do to me. God put me in a situation where there was constant pressure around me from all sides such as financial pressure due to being a student, physical and emotional pressure due to the fatigue from the long hours and finally pressure from foolish and baffling leadership decisions that literally left me with no other choice than to "feel the fear and do it anyway" and let fly at the leadership by drastically losing my temper as this was the step I had to take to banish that fear out of my life once and for all.

This proved to be a turning point in my life. From that moment on my whole personality changed. Previously I often used to sit there and say nothing even when there were things on my mind I should have said. But after this all of a sudden the words started to flow more freely. It was like I had "found my voice" so to speak and the only way I was truly able to find my voice was to be put in a situation where I was literally forced to use it. I believe it was God's plan for me to experience this and that He put all of these things in place so that I would finally be able to overcome the fear that had kept me so restrained.

Another huge issue in my life has been fear of physical violence. Due to numerous factors from my childhood and mainly due to the spiritual inheritance I received when I was conceived, I have dreaded physical violence more than just about anything in the world. I never had much experience getting into fist fights as a child or anything like that so I didn't have any real experience of what physical violence was like to go back to which could have helped ease my fears - all I knew was that it was something I didn't know much about, and that it was something I feared and dreaded more than anything. However - God had a plan for me to face this fear too - and the event that He put in my path to get me to face it came to pass only recently.

I was on my lunch break at work and I was walking down the street and saw two young people walking towards me with masks on and hoodies with the hoods drawn up. I immediately got a sense that something was very wrong and I turned and followed them as they walked into a dairy and threatened the owner with a weapon. One was standing at the door threatening all passers by with a weapon if they tried to do anything. I stood at the door screaming at them and a combination of my screaming and the screaming of the owner caused the thieves to take fright and run out of the shop. Pumped full of adrenaline and anger at what had just happened I high tailed it after them without thinking.

Eventually I was able to corner them both against a fence and other members of the public noticed and also joined in the chase. I grabbed one of them and he struck me on the side of the head with his weapon and stabbed me in the right forearm, but I stood my ground and held on to him with the help of another man until the police arrived. Both of the thieves were arrested and were later charged for their crimes. Only afterwards did I realize I was bleeding as there wasn't any pain due to the adrenaline rush - I only found out when the other man holding the criminal told me there was blood coming out of the side of my head.

Amidst the whirlwind of emotions during this period I realized that another important, life-changing event had taken place - in the midst of this situation I had faced and overcome my fear of physical violence. Before when I thought about physical violence there was continual, overwhelming dread - but now that I had experienced an extreme case of physical violence that I had survived without any serious injury (thankfully) and had managed to stand my ground until justice was done in the situation despite my injuries - my "unknown" fear had now become "known" and therefore had lost its power over me. Of course I was very lucky to escape serious injury as the strikes on the side of my head were very close to my left eye, and I was lucky that the other members of the public showed up when they did. I believe that God's protection was with me during this time as He knew that this was something I needed to go through in order to banish my fears of physical violence once and for all so He was watching over me the entire time.

Since this incident I am seeing more and more just how much has changed in me and just how much fear has been banished out of my life as a result. I walk more confidently and I no longer shy away in fear when I see other people on the street. I feel bolder and more powerful within myself than ever before and more confident when it comes to dealing with people at my work. In short, though this was a terrible thing to go through - tremendous good has come out of it for me and I believe that as time goes on there will be more and more evidence as to how much stronger and healthier in myself I have become as a result of this incident.

In conclusion - simply talking through and "writing through" fear is not always enough. Sometimes you need to go out and really face head on that which you are afraid of as that can sometimes be the only way to truly break free and overcome. Would I suggest screaming at your pastor, or chasing down armed robbers on foot with nothing to defend yourself with in order to free yourself of fear? Absolutely not. In fact I would more than likely advise against both of them! But for me personally those two situations were ordained and put in place by the Holy Spirit as these were exactly what I needed to face my fears. The timing was right for me to face these fears and the Holy Spirit was with me right the way through. Your situations may look totally different from mine (and probably will). But when you know in your gut that you just have to do something - don't sit back and do nothing and then try to justify it to yourself or others. You are holding yourself back from much needed personal growth and as long as you stick with the Holy Spirit and are obedient to His leading and prompting, you have nothing to fear and you will experience breakthrough and freedom on the other side of it.

Take care.

1 comment:

  1. I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect!